Tony Dungy is taking a lead role in improving communication between the NFL and its players.
Dungy will lead a new NFL player advisory forum that will meet with players about league policies, programs and issues that affect their lives on and off the field. Those subjects will include player health and safety, personal conduct, game rules and procedures, career transition and player development.
Dungy, who retired as coach of the Indianapolis Colts after last season, is a special adviser to commissioner Roger Goodell.
"When I worked on the competition committee we always had meetings with players at the NFL combine to talk about issues important to them," Dungy said, "and then the committee reported back to the commissioner and the league office. I thought that communication always was important and commissioner Goodell wanted to broaden that."
Goodell will attend the meetings, and union officials have been invited to attend. Pro Bowl players Kurt Warner, Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins are among the players who will take part in the meetings. Dungy envisions as many as 50 players being involved, including a dozen or more before the end of the season. He expects they will come from all age groups.
"We certainly want to talk about player safety, the state of game, discipline and conduct. I'm sure the steroid issue will come up, and the Starcaps issue _ to make sure it's a level playing field for everyone.
"Then we will talk about off-field issues, in terms of post-career, back to school, transitioning back to private life, post-concussion, and what teams are doing and the league is doing."
Goodell emphasized that open lines of communication with the players is essential. With negotiations under way on a new collective bargaining agreement, such forums might even help in that process.
"Players continue to be an invaluable resource in providing direction and insight into a wide range of programs and policies," Goodell said. "Tony's experience and expertise in working with players make him an ideal leader of the player advisory forum and we appreciate his willingness to take on this important role."
Dungy also has advised Michael Vick during the quarterback's suspension and his return to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since retiring, Dungy also has worked as a commentator for NBC Sports.
"Who better in the world today to lead a forum of NFL players than Tony Dungy?" said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports. "Tony is one of the most respected and admired men in pro football history because he lives his life with impeccable character. His influence deservedly extends well beyond the game."
Goodell conducted similar meetings with retired players last year. These programs are an outgrowth of the a player advisory council formed by Goodell and the NFL Players Association in 2006.
"This is extremely important and Tony's involvement is a big factor for me because he stands for everything that is right about the NFL," Lewis said. "This is an area where we need unity because it's about players and the league helping each other. I truly believe we can accomplish things that will carry on way beyond us."